By Reed Hoppe
Arthur and Mary Alice Ivey are Mission Society missionaries who have served in Huancayo, Peru since 2001. Arthur graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in civil engineering. He worked as an engineer for many years while he felt a growing call to serve cross-culturally. Mary Alice graduated from Georgia State University with a degree in early childhood education and taught school for several years. The Iveys participated in short-term mission trips for 13 years while praying about moving overseas.
What the Iveys discovered after they moved to Peru was that people would come to know Christ very quickly, but there was no structure in place to disciple these new Christians in their faith.
After spending several years learning the language and getting to know the culture, the Lord gave Arthur a formula for discipling new Jesus-followers.
Arthur leads four discipleship groups at a time, each comprised of eight-to-fifteen members. They meet for two hours each week to fellowship and study Scripture. Each group stays together for about two and a half years. Every person in the group commits to begin discipling someone else within six-to-twelve months. Many of the members start their own discipleship groups, which has led to 250 groups discipling more than 3,400 people at this time.
“The Western church model doesn’t work well in Peruvian culture,” said Arthur. “Most Peruvians are culturally Catholic, and 10-15 percent are evangelical. Many people are syncretistic. When people can’t find the answers they are looking for in church, they leave, and many of the churches are losing members.
“I think the discipleship model has worked so well in Peru because it met a deep need in the heart of the Peruvians. Peru is a very social culture, so the interactive Bible study works well. We have gone to the people with the gospel message and they have found the answers they were searching for in Jesus.”
The Iveys also run a Kids’ Club ministry. More than 1,000 children, ranging in age from two to fifteen years old, come to the Clubs each week. Mary Alice writes the curriculum and disciples many of the leaders who coordinate the 12 groups currently meeting.
The Iveys’ goal is to bring people to know Jesus as Lord and train them to be able to witness to and disciple others. They have seen a dramatic change in many people’s lives as they accept Jesus and seek to live a godly life.
Just this past Easter, Arthur accompanied three brothers to visit their father in prison. Flavio, a former pastor, is in prison for the murder of three people. He also sexually abused his two daughters when they were young. One of his sons, Benjamin, spent time in prison due to the fact that his father involved in him the murders.
Benjamin, Jose, and Moises had not seen their father in more than 15 years. During that time, Benjamin accepted Christ and has been discipled in one of Arthur’s small groups. Benjamin now wanted to tell his father that he had forgiven him. Flavio was thrilled to be reunited with his sons. He came to know Jesus several years ago through a discipleship group that one of Arthur’s colleagues started in the prison. Flavio now leads several discipleship groups in the prison.
After leaving the prison that Sunday, Jose decided to give his life to Jesus. Arthur said, “It was wonderful to spend Easter Sunday experiencing the Lord Jesus’ resurrection power working in the lives of persons to bring salvation and restoration.”
Lizbeth is one of Flavio’s daughters. “Lizbeth and her mother knocked on our door one day looking for help, and we connected her with one of our discipleship groups,” said Arthur. “She was just destroyed. Through the discipleship group, she came to know Christ. She was able to forgive her father and was set free from the pain she had carried throughout her life.”
Lizbeth is now a powerful witness for Jesus. She has traveled all over Peru, speaking about her abuse and how Jesus set her free. Most of Lizbeth’s family has now come to know Christ. They are responsible for personally starting 12 discipleship groups throughout the years, which have ministered to hundreds of people and helped others find freedom in Christ.
“There are so many similar stories,” said Arthur. “I see God moving among his people in Peru to set them free to be the Church he desires them to be—a Church that longs to know him more intimately and wants others to know him, too, a Church that disciples people,” says Arthur.
Reed Haigler Hoppe serves as an associate editor for The Mission Society and is an ordained deacon in the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. You can make a donation to the Iveys’ ministry at www.themissionsociety.org/people/ivey.